Embryonic stem cell research may offer revolutionary medical treatments because the embryonic stem cell is the only cell we know of that can differentiate itself into any other type of cell, and can replicate itself indefinitely. However, embryonic stem cell research is considered controversial because some consider that a blastocyst (a fertilized egg), from which embryonic stem cells are obtained, is a human being.
Is English the most important language in the world? Is all language translatable? Which parts of which languages are incompatible with other languages and how do different groups of individuals deal with that? Will globalization accelerate the loss of certain native languages? What are the consequences of focusing on learning the dominant languages and not focusing on preserving native languages?
Is there any alternative government structure better than democracy? What’s beyond democracy? Is it important to have everyone’s voice being heard or is it the majority opinion that counts? Does the whole voting system represent a nation? What if voting is not compulsory in Australia?
Do the arts matter? What does Arts Education means to Australians and how do the Arts formulate the character of a Nation? Can the arts inspire change, provoke thoughts in human life or are they a complete waste of time? Is it just extra money spent satisfying our need for entertainment? Is Arts education as important as Sports education in shaping a nation’s wealth and health? Or is Sport more meaningful than Arts?
It is impossible to change the mind of people after they reach a certain age.
Ethical behaviour is more difficult for the rich.
It is OK to use animals in research if it benefits humans.
A reading list for this topic is at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/Animals-in-research.htm
Only a tiny percentage of any population will ever be knowledgeable about public affairs. This is a good thing.
Many multinational businesses have transcended effective control by national governments.
It is impossible for Australian businesses to enter into joint ventures in many international jurisdictions without compromising ethics.
Segments of the medical profession are compromising public health by peddling drugs. Is this true? In public surveys of trust, doctors are always rated the most trustworthy members of society. However, an examination of the history of medical ethics yields results that are far from reassuring. What is going on here? In a way, patients are hostage to doctors. Do patient fears and helplessness create a kind of Stockholm Syndrome which leaves space for professional abuse?
Visual arts skills, music or performance skills are critical for the vocational success of very large numbers of students, so should not be regarded as optional extras in education funding.
The most economically successful societies have always depended upon a high level of government collusion with commerce and industry, if not control. This argument is a way of saying that the “invisible hand” of the market is not enough to maintain an efficient market, at least beyond village level. There has to be an independent umpire, or forced control (dictator, mafia … )
“Democratic societies are less likely to make war than dictatorships”. What is the evidence?
Our complex societies are approaching the limits of educability for large numbers of citizens (e.g. “functional” literacy hovers at around 50% in most “advanced” societies). Even those selected in schools for high intelligence (e.g. many doctors) seem unable to absorb, retain and use critically all of the knowledge necessary to practice their professions competently. With less able students, good teachers often realize that there comes a point of diminishing returns for teaching effort, so difficult choices have to be made.
Public transport should be free
The larger a country is, the less effective its democracy becomes.
I’m into movies in a big way so maybe we could discuss this: was Avatar a better movie than The Titanic? It brings up lots of issues eg relationships, revenge, respect, tragedy and honour! One other, the big one: God v evolution. One more, I can’t stop now!!: Do we suffer more illnesses (eg viruses) now than we did back in the early days eg 20’s 30’s, if so why would that be? As Arnie said “I’ll be back”!!
Is anything possible if we put our mind to it? For example flight, submarines, space travel, internet etc Do we manifest what we think?
Last year a UK official made the comment that sometimes when a rape takes place the female victim must accept the reality that her actions may have triggered the attack, at least in part. Is this a fair statement? What implications does it have for both victims and perpetrators? What implications does it have for the way such cases are worked through the justice system?
In the recent presidential debates in the USA the Republican party expressed their wish to make abortion illegal once more, with an exception for cases where pregnancy was the result of rape or abuse. Do you think this line of reasoning makes sense? Is it enforceable? Is this even an issue that warrants the government’s involvement?
Global warming: what is it and how real is the threat?
Should our remaining wild areas be protected at all costs? Or should they be open to commercial development, mining, farming, wood-chipping, etc.
Capitalism Vs Socialism
The concept of alternative universes is a popular topic in science at the moment. If an alternative universe existed, would it have different physical properties to those of our universe? Or would the physical laws necessarily be the same?
Photography is popular because it’s the easiest medium in which to be competent. But it’s also the hardest medium in which to develop a unique artistic vision and separate yourself from the crowds of competent photographers. (paraphrasing Chuck Close)
Will computers ever be able to translate complex sentences? Is artificial intelligence a real possibility? Or is it simply an imaginary concept?
Should the Parthenon sculptures (the Elgin Marbles) be returned to Greece?
Poetry, as an activity and an institution, used to be central to civilization, but is much more marginalised now. Why is that?
What is the purpose of dreaming? (i.e. what evolutionary advantage would a dreaming creature have over one that does not dream?) There are many existing theories, such as emotional reboot, building neural networks for visual processing, etc., but there is no genuine consensus on the issue.
Debate topic: Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Or was the development of life on earth a complete fluke, a once only event, which happened against all odds, and is never likely to occur again anywhere in the universe? Is the search for life elsewhere in the universe a waste of time, money and resources? Or is it an important endeavour?
Debate topic: Are antidepressants overprescribed by doctors? Are they masking a person’s true problems? What about the serious side effects? Should they be given to children as young as 5 years old? Can we trust pharmaceutical companies to do their own trials? Why is it governments are not providing more money to relationship education, emotional intelligence, resilience, and counselling to help prevent depression.